Highs and lows

Several times a year we learn from the local media that "another international brand opens a store in Puerto Banús..." But it is not a one-way street. While new brands do indeed set up shop there, others leave. As the manager of a Swiss watch shop said to me recently, after confiding that the shop was about to close after ten years with the loss of 11 jobs, "Puerto Banús is not what is used to be".

When the chief architect for the original Beverly Hills Project, Noldi Schreck, was asked by Madrid builder José Banús, to draw up a master plan for a beach-side complex of high-rise apartment buildings on his land in Nueva Andalucía, he argued that a Mediterranean village built around a yacht marina would be more attractive. At the 1970 opening party no expense was spared. Costing 48,000 euros back then, 300 waiters were brought down from Sevilla (obviously at that time there were only a few dozen locally) and 50 kilos of caviar was flown in. Prince Juan Carlos and Sofia of Greece, the Aga Khan, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, Roman Polanski, Hugh Hefner and Christian Barnard were among the many famous guests. A young Julio Iglesias performed.

To start a new commercial complex from zero is tough as no-one wants to be the first. Banús shrewdly gifted front-line premises to a few local businesses such as Antonio's Restaurant and Menchu's bar, and the rest fell into place. It is alleged that King Fahd built his six palaces on the Golden Mile not to be near Marbella, rather to be close to Puerto Banús. Back then the best restaurants were all in the port, not the town, and places such as Beni's, Cipriano, Club 31 and Antonio's were obligatory visits. So what do we have now? An almost unending variety of fast-food places: pizzerias, 'steak-houses', oriental joints, and a handful of good restaurants with mostly over-the-top prices. Local residents will almost unanimously tell you they never visit the port, since it is not what it used to be.